The 14th edition of Asia’s biggest international cricket tournament is all set to kick-start in Dubai on the 15th of September with an exciting tournament opener between two equally placed teams, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
With just 3 teams in each of the 2 groups, the 6-team tournament will have a Super 4’s round with the top 2 teams from each group featuring in it. Therefore, winning this group B match will be a high priority for both teams, as a win will most probably assure them a place in the Super 4’s. However, in a scenario of all 3 teams ending up with one win each, the net run rate will come in to the equation.
Sri Lanka will start as favourites despite losing to Bangladesh twice in the Nidahas trophy hosted by them, as they won the ODI tri-series in Bangladesh which also featured Zimbabwe.
The island nation played Bangladesh thrice and won two of them including the final. Sri Lanka will also carry the momentum they gained after beating South Africa in the last two ODIs and the only T20I. Bangladesh on the other hand are also after a successful tour to the Caribbean, winning both the ODI series and the T20I series.
The Asia Cup begins on Saturday, 15 September in the United Arab Emirates. Do you know how the tournament works?
- Head to Head
History clearly favours Sri Lanka as they have won 36 out of the 44 matches played against Bangladesh since the two teams met first in the 1986 Asia Cup in Kandy, which Sri Lanka won by 7 wickets. The recent past however has produced some results favouring Bangladesh as they managed to beat Sri Lanka twice in the past 2 years in 6 matches, with one match being washed out at Dambulla.
Looking at the Sri Lanka-Bangladesh rivalry in Asia Cups, Sri Lanka once again dominate the numbers as they have lost to Bangladesh just once in 12 meetings. The only instance Bangladesh got the better of Sri Lanka was in 2012 when Sri Lanka lost all their matches.
Interestingly this will be just the second time the two teams face off in UAE. The previous time was back in 1995 when the two teams met in an Asia Cup encounter in Sharjah. Sri Lanka recorded a comprehensive win on that occasion by a massive 107 runs.
- Key Battles
Upul Tharanga vs Tamim Iqbal – Battle of the openers
It’s said, “Well begun is half done”, so the role of the openers will be vital for both teams. For Bangladesh, Tamim has been in excellent form in West Indies with scores of 130*, 54 & 103. The most prolific ODI batsman for Bangladesh, will be the key for them at the top as his ability to play big innings is something Bangladesh has highly relied on during the recent past. With Lasith Malinga returning to the Lankan squad it’ll be very interesting to see how Tamim will go after a retuning Malinga with the new ball. If Sri Lanka also opts to open the bowling with veteran off-spinner Dilruwan Perera, it will be interesting to watch how Tamim copes with it.
Speaking about Tharanga, he is fresh after a tremendous outing in the SLC T20 League where he hammered 2 centuries and 2 fifties in 6 innings. The left-hander also ended the tournament as its highest run-scorer with an aggregate of 414 at 103.5. Anyway his last international assignment was not his best outing as he only managed to score a highest of 36 in 5 matches. Nevertheless, he will start as the key at the top for Sri Lanka. Tharanga, regarded as one of the best timers of the cricket ball, coping with Bangladesh’s skipper Mashrafe or else off spinner Mehedy with the new ball will be a crucial period of play for both sides because if he starts scoring freely, there is no stopping him.
Lasith Malinga vs Mashrafe Mortaza – Battle of the veterans
Undoubtedly the fact that the two legends of the game, Lasith Malinga and Mashrafe Mortaza are playing the ultimate chapter of their careers is something everyone agrees without a question. Both still retained and believed on for the experience, they carry with them loads of expectations. Likely to open the bowling for their respective sides Malinga and Mashrafe will be the key for both sides in terms of bowling as they’ll be expected to strike early. Mashrafe, himself being the captain will definitely have the extra burden on his shoulders.
Malinga no doubt will be expected to display his master craft of bowling the death overs. The best in the business of targeting toes at excruciating pace, it will an interesting passage for Sri Lankans who will be spurring him on to deliver old-form. Mashrafe, himself managing his 10 overs will also be interesting to see.
- Coping the middle overs pressure
Batting in the middle overs is something Sri Lanka has consistently failed to do well. A major reason for their slump in ODI cricket in the recent past is losing wickets in the middle overs. Bangladesh’s record in the middle overs isn’t the best either.
Losing wickets in the middle overs has been a problem for both teams and the spinners on both sides are expected to come to the party. It will be really interesting to watch them operate as they’ll try to expose the weaknesses of the batsmen during this critical period of play.
Captaincies of Mathews and Mashrafe will be absolutely tested and their strategies during this period will be crucial. Preferably it’ll be try and take wickets, unless they think different and go with a run-saving strategy.
- Team news
Sri Lanka will be one man short as Akila Dananjaya, a member of the original squad, is still in Sri Lanka, expecting his wife to deliver their first child. Dinesh Chandimal and Danushka Gunathilaka also were ruled out with injuries as Niroshan Dickwella and Shehan Jayasuriya, two players named among the five standbys for the original 16-man squad, were named as replacements.
Probable Sri Lankan XI: Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews (c), Dananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga
Although Bangladesh hasn’t made any changes to their initial squad, they too are in doubt of the availability of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and uncapped batsman Nazmul Hasan, as they are in a race to be fit before the all-important game.
Probable Bangladesh XI: Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Mahrafe Mortaza (c), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain
- Final say
Sri Lanka walking in as favourites, despite their recent losses against Bangladesh and Bangladesh’s excellent form in ODIs leading up to this tournament, will really feel the burden of sky high expectations. They are also without the man who was instrumental in whatever ODI success they gained during the recent past, Akila Dananjaya. However, the return of Lasith Malinga will surely boost Lankan confidence as they gear up to face the Bangladeshi challenge in the UAE.